Everyone seems to have an opinion on Jason Collins, the NBA center who came out of the closet yesterday. President Obama reportedly called the former Washington Wizard to congratulate him. Bill Clinton, whose daughter is friends with Jason, congratulated the player. Ernie Grunfeld, president of the Washington Wizards, for whom Collins has played, said he's "extremely proud" of the 34-year old: "He has been a leader on and off the court and an outstanding teammate throughout his NBA career. Those qualities will continue to serve him both as a player and as a positive role model for others of all sexual orientation." And Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III, Collins' friend from their days at Stanford, said, "I've never known him to look for publicity, or to look for the spotlight, but given that no one else would raise their hand, I knew he would do it."
And Dan Savage said Collins' coming out should spark a conversation about straight players' masculinity and what it means to be a man. "This isn't about whether Jason Collins or other athletes who happen to be gay are pansies," the gay journalist and activist said on MSNBC. "It's about whether heterosexual men and heterosexual athletes in locker rooms are pansies. If they're afraid of gay men, if they're jumping up on chairs and shrieking and too afraid to shower in the same conditions that marines, and sailors, and airmen shower in." Collins, he says, has given the NBA and its fans an opportunity to grow and show their acceptance. .
But of course not everyone's singing Collins' praises. Conservatives naturally have something negative to say. Ben Shapiro, one of the rightwing website Breitbart's snarling columnists, tweeted, "So Jason Collins is a hero because he's gay? Our standard for heroism has dropped quite a bit since Normandy." And then there's Chris Broussard, an ESPN commentator who injected his own religious beliefs into the conversation.
"Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly… If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin," Broussard said, live on air. "If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality... I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the bible would characterize them as a Christian."
As the predictable fury rose, ESPN issued a statement that read, "We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction from today’s news. ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins’ announcement." Broussard too released a statement, but it's not an apology by any stretch of the imagination.
Today on OTL, as part of a larger, wide-ranging discussion on today's news, I offered my personal opinion as it relates to Christianity, a point of view that I have expressed publicly before. I realize that some people disagree with my opinion and I accept and respect that. As has been the case in the past, my beliefs have not and will not impact my ability to report on the NBA. I believe Jason Collins displayed bravery with his announcement today and I have no objection to him or anyone else playing in the NBA.
One has to assume that Broussard's not the only journalist who feels this way in the wide world of sports reporting. While it's unclear whether the 34-year old will be taken in by any of the NBA's teams, he'll undoubtedly face opposition beyond the locker room and off the court. It will be right there, on television, discussing and analyzing his every move, like a voyeur waiting to strike. But Collins seems ready for anything, especially haters.
Discussing Broussard and other wet blankets with Good Morning America's George Stephanopolous, he said, "I'm being honest, so if that means that I'm upsetting people, you know, there are a lot of other people in this world are being completely honest and you can't please everyone. You just try to live your life by your values and go about your business."